A New Day
"No!" I screamed, finally having found my voice. Oh, so now I could talk? After my parents had left me in the middle of a fire?
...Then I heard this really weird noise. It sounded almost like... a cat? I didn't remember any cats in the fire...
"Meow!" ...Okay, that was definitely a cat.
That's when I felt something rough and wet on my nose. It felt like sandpaper...
And then I woke up. Sox was licking my face again. Ugh.
"Aw, Sox," I batted him away and sat up in my bed. Wait... I was in bed? And not in a burning building?
...Was that all just a dream? I looked around, only to find that I was back in my room. I guess that confirmed it. It didn't happen.
Ugh... What an awful nightmare... I looked down to find my shirt damp, and that my arms were glistening with perspiration. Yikes, I was dripping with sweat... I needed a towel.
But as I looked at my arm, I noticed something. Huh? I turned my hand over. The scratches from yesterday were completely gone. Did I really heal that quickly? Shrugging it off, I jumped down from my bed and nearly slipped in my socks. What was that about? That's never happened before... I looked down to find myself standing on a wood floor. What happened to the carpet? This was weird, I thought as I shooed Sox off the bed and pulled my solid blue bedspread back over the mattress... Wait, did my blanket always look like that? I looked around the room again, finally realizing something.
...This wasn't my room! My room had a carpet, and a checkered bedspread! How'd I get here, sleepwalking?
Then, all of a sudden a giant black hole appeared in the middle of the room, just like the one in my dream. What the heck was happening? Had I finally gone completely insane?
I jumped as I felt something rub against my foot, and I looked down to find that it was only Sox. I sighed in relief as I reached down to pat him. If Sox was here, then this had to be my room, right? Then I noticed that he had something fastened to his collar. Pulling it off, I stared at it as I held it in my hands. It was... a pen? An average, everyday, green, plastic pen. It looked nothing out of the ordinary. Where would a cat get this?
"Where'd you find this, Sox?" I asked the cat as I picked him up, still not quite taking my eyes off of the mysterious hole in the middle of the room.
Was that... the same hole from my dream? ...I guess it couldn't hurt to take a look...
Sox meowed again, interrupting me from my thoughts, and I put him back down on the bed.
What if I tapped the portal with that pen? In other words, would weird object + weird object = explanation? I shrugged. By my logic, it seemed to work. I slowly reached out and touched the pen to the hole. In an instant, there was suddenly a white flash, a blinding light, and I felt as if I was being sucked into the portal. Then several images flashed before my eyes.
The first was of a burning building, the second of a kitchen table, and the last one showed what looked like a dumpster. Then all of a sudden, the images, along with the mysterious hole, were gone in a flash. And I found myself on the floor in a crumpled heap.
Whoa... What was that? I shook my head as I picked myself up from where I was sprawled out on the floor... I guess that was what you'd call a flashback, huh?
"What's going on up there?" I heard a gruff voice from downstairs.
"Who's out there?" I shouted. If I had been sleepwalking, and this wasn't my house...
"Whaddya mean, who?" The door opened and in walked Uncle Derek, leather jacket and all. "There's no one out here but me"
"Uncle Derek...?" I asked, confused. "Oh, have you come to see Mom and Dad?"
"Huh?" Derek looked confused. "You still half-awake, kiddo? And what's with all the sweat?" My eyes were no doubt as wide as saucers by now. 'Kiddo'? Was Uncle Derek always this buddy-buddy with me? This was completely out of character for him.
"Breakfast is ready," he said, shrugging. "But shower first, or you'll catch a cold."
"Uncle Derek...?" I took a step towards him. What the heck was going on?
"Hey, what's the big idea?" He took a step back. "You're getting sweat everywhere!" He wiped his palms on his jeans.
"What happened to Mom and Dad?" I asked him.
"... What?" His brow furrowed.
"You know... my parents?" I asked, confused at his odd facial expression.
"Now I know you're still asleep," he sighed. "You think I'd go through all this if I knew where they were?" He frowned. "After all, it's been twelve years since they up and disappeared..."
"What?...Really?" I was shocked. So was Uncle Derek looking after me, then? ...Oh, yeah, he was a freelance writer, wasn't he? At least, I thought he was. I couldn't remember exactly. Maybe I should've paid better attention when he bored me by talking about his job.
"C'mon, snap out of it!" He gently shook my shoulders. "You can't spend your whole day dreaming! Or am I gonna have to slap you awake?" He said with a joking glare.
"I remember now..." I muttered to myself. "Back when I was a kid, Mom and Dad..."
"Aw, man..." Uncle Derek shook his head. "Fine. I'm starting breakfast without you." And he closed the door and walked back downstairs.
I just stood there in shock at what I'd just heard. Mom and Dad... they went missing twelve years ago. I remembered now. Uncle Derek lived in this house and looked after me, instead.
...So was THAT a dream? Living with Mom and Dad-was it real? Or was I dreaming?
I racked my brain, trying to remember the flashbacks that I saw a few moments ago. Oddly enough, when I tried to recall the images, they flashed before my eyes once again, it was like looking at a photograph in my head. Was this what a photographic memory was like?
I recalled the most chilling image first, the one of the burning building. There were flames everywhere, completely engulfing the place, and it looked as if the building was about to collapse. Thankfully, though, I couldn't see anybody inside of it. That was when I realized that I had just dreamt about the exact same scene... But I wasn't still dreaming now, was I?
I moved on to the second image. It appeared to display someone's kitchen table. Wait a minute... was that the table downstairs? As I took a closer look, I realized that it was. Uncle Derek was seated across from where I was viewing the scene, reading a newspaper. On the table, there were two cups of coffee and several slices of toast. It was an all-too-common scene. I lived with my uncle now. When did that become an everyday scene for me, anyway?
The third image was a bit harder to identify. It pictured what looked like an old dumpster filled with bags of garbage. Next to it was an enormous incinerator. Right then, I had that nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I knew that place... It seemed familiar...
Sox rubbed up against my foot, startling me from my thoughts. I guess I'd better head down to breakfast. Uncle Derek was waiting for me.
As I was on my way downstairs, an odd smell wafted through the air. I sniffed the air, and I eventually came to the conclusion that it was coffee. That was weird, we didn't normally have coffee in the morning. My family and I were tea-drinkers, I remembered that much. But that particular smell did seem vaguely familiar.
"Hey," Uncle Derek looked up from the newspaper he was reading at the kitchen table. "You awake now?" As I sat down across from him, I realized that the scene had become the flashback that I had seen earlier. Uncle Derek was seated across from me at the kitchen table reading a newspaper, and there was toast and coffee on the table.
"Uh-huh..." I mumbled, not quite hearing what he had said. This was weird...
He took one last sip of his coffee. "Okay," he said, getting up from his seat and folding up the newspaper. "I'm going out. You're on dish duty, all right?"
"S-sure thing..." I said, slightly in shock. I was thinking about what he had said to me earlier, and so nicely, too. He was like a completely different person. Uncle Derek rumpled my hair playfully on his way out the front door, nearly causing my jaw to drop. Whoa.
I shook my head as I picked up a piece of toast. Which part was the dream? I thought as I bit into my toast. And which part was real?
"Toast and coffee," I murmured to myself. I guess that this is was we usually had for breakfast. Munching on my toast, I noticed that something about the kitchen was changed. Where a large spot of blank wall used to be, there was a large wooden door. As I stared at it, I remembered what it was for.
...Oh, yeah. I took a second piece of toast. Uncle Derek had a study in there now. I couldn't remember actually ever going inside, though...
The clock on the opposite wall suddenly chimed, announcing that it was now 7:30. That's right, I thought as I finished my toast. I had school. I'd better get dressed.
I went back upstairs and put on my school uniform, a white polo shirt under a grey-ish crewneck jacket, with matching grey pants (skirts for the girls). I also had to wear a white kerchief around my neck, all the sophomores had to. Red for the freshman, white for the sophomores, blue for the juniors, and yellow for the seniors. I wasn't really sure why we had such a silly rule. Who knows?
I gathered up my schoolbooks (along with my homework, which I hoped I had done the night before), and placed them in my backpack, along the mysterious green pen Sox had given me. Then I gave Sox one final pat on the head before heading out.
The final bell rang, signifying the end of yet another day at Kako High School. I gathered up my things and placed them in my backpack, sighing. Man, I just couldn't keep my mind on my work today... I tried using the pen earlier today, but I found that it didn't write. It seemed pretty useless, if you ask me, but a part of me just felt like I needed to keep it for some reason, so I held onto it, placing it in the breast pocket of my jacket.
As I was leaving the building, I heard a couple of students chattering loudly behind me. Who were those two? I turned around to look at them. They sure were noisy...
"Are you serious?" A boy with sandy blonde hair asked incredulously. "Lemme take a look!"
"I'm totally serious," the other boy said. He had short dark hair and glasses. "I found it when I went to take the garbage out. Isn't it awesome?" He dug something out of his schoolbag and held it out for the other student to see. From where I was standing, though, I couldn't quite tell what it was.
"Whoa!" The blonde boy reached out to touch it, but the other boy snatched it away and put it back into his bag. "Dude! Lemme have half!" The blonde pleaded.
"You nuts?" The boy with glasses said as he zipped up his backpack. "What're you gonna do with half a clock?"
"Man, that's a real find," the blonde murmured, his voice full of awe. A clock, eh? I wanted a clock of my own yesterday. Now I couldn't care less...
An excited "Ethaaaan!" interrupted my thoughts.
"Who, me?" I turned around, looking for the owner of the excited voice that had just called my name.
"Duh, who else?" I looked over and saw Ashley Threet walking up to me. She had a timid-looking girl at her side. "C'mon, Emily," Ashley said, shoving the girl towards me. "What do you say?"
Ashley Threet was the younger sister of Vin Threet, one of my best friends. She was a freshman at Kako, and extremely energetic. She had short, choppy brown hair, big brown eyes, and a charming smile that always showed.
"Um..." Ashley's friend fidgeted with her pigtails for a moment. "Happy birthday, Ethan..." she said in a soft, quiet voice.
"Uh, hi," I said, thrusting out my hand for a handshake. "Um, not to be rude, but who are you?" I said to the girl.
"Oh, I-I'm so sorry!" The girl looked a bit startled. "My name is Emily. Emily Niner." She reached out and shook my hand shyly.
Emily had long black hair pulled into two loose pigtails at her sides. She wore glasses, and behind those were two rather pretty purple-ish eyes. Was purple even a natural color for eyes? She wore a red kerchief, so I assumed that she was a freshman like Ashley.
"Emily, huh?" I smiled at her. "Well, thanks for the birthday wishes, Emily!" I started to walk away.
"Wait!" Ashley grabbed my arm. "Don't go anywhere! What about your present?"
"What?" I asked, looking back at them. "My present?" They didn't have to get me anything...
"C'mon, Emily," Ashley nudged her friend with her elbow. "Where is it?"
"Oh, right." Emily started rifling through her backpack. "This is... f-for you, Ethan..." She blushed as she placed something in my hands. When I looked at the gift, I must admit, I was a bit surprised.
It was a clock, an antique one by the looks of it. It was small and made of polished wood, and it had all those fancy, loopy numbers on its face. It was rather beautiful.
Ashley cleared her throat. "It would mean a lot to her if you just accepted it," she said without much subtlety.
"Ashley!" Emily's face reddened even more. "Cut it out!"
"Thanks," I smiled as I put it in my backpack. That was nice of them...
"Emily heard you liked clocks and picked it out special," Ashley grinned. "And if you don't like it, then just throw it out or something," she added.
"What?" Emily looked shocked. "Ashley..."
A deeper voice from afar called out, "Yo, Ethan!"
"Rats, it's my brother!" Ashley muttered. "See ya, Ethan!" She said as she ran off.
"G-goodbye, Ethan..." Emily smiled shyly before taking off after Ashley.
"Hey, Vin," I said as my friend walked up to me and gave me a high five. Right behind him were Ben and Morris.
Vin Threet was a childhood friend of mine, a sophomore like me. He had disheveled sandy blonde hair, and dark brown eyes. He was also pretty tall (6 foot 2), and had an athletic build, both of which used to give him an advantage on the basketball team, but an old injury benched him, so he wasn't into any sports right now.
"Hey, Eeth," Vin said before glancing off in the direction of Ashley and Emily. "What's up with those two?" he said, shaking his head to himself. "Whispering amongst themselves..."
"They gave me a birthday present," I said as I dug out the clock from my backpack.
"Who did, Ashley?" He said before covering his nose with his shirt. "Gah! Nasty! Throw it away!"
"Why would I?" I shrugged, putting it back. "She went to all that trouble..." A clock for my birthday... Just what I was asking Mom and Dad for yesterday.
"What's up, Ethan?" Ben said with a smile. "You're so quiet. Choked up over that present, eh?" Ben Fourier was another one of my closest friends. He had golden brown hair, and large blue eyes that he always kept behind a pair of rather big glasses. Ben was kind of a wuss, but not a bad guy.
"Hey," I said to my friends. "Do you know anything about my folks? Anything at all."
"Whoa," Vin held his hands up. "Way to change the subject, Ethan."
"Aha!" Ben chuckled. "You really don't want to talk about that present, do you?"
"Yeah," Morris smiled. "We can read you like a book!"
Morris Fivet was another good friend of mine. He had this long-ish black hair and these rather serious-looking eyes. Then again, Morris was a pretty serious person. An A-plus student, Morris was always studying.
"N-no," I stuttered. "That's not it..." Although the whole present thing was sort of embarrassing... But I really would like to see if anyone knew anything about Mom and Dad.
"Your... parents, eh?" Vin ran his fingers through his hair, a habit that he'd had for years.
"Didn't you say they went missing when you were little?" Ben asked, straightening his glasses. "That's all we ever heard about them," he shrugged.
"I remember how your mom would buy us candy as kids," Vin said. "But that's about it."
"Morris?" I directed the conversation toward him. He'd been pretty silent this whole time.
"Ah, I'm not quite sure how to put this, but..." He looked away uncomfortably. "I heard they went missing about twelve years ago."
"Yeah, I figured as much..." I muttered half to myself. Just like Uncle Derek... They all said that my parents disappeared twelve years ago.
"What is it, Ethan?" Vin put his hand on my shoulder. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Hey, if you've got a cold, go home so we don't catch it," Morris said jokingly, taking a step back.
"Sorry, guys," I said, chuckling. "I'll see you later." I'd think this over when I got home.
When I got into my driveway, I took another look at my house. It was like it totally changed overnight... Or maybe it was just my imagination.
"I'm home!" I called as I strode through the front door. Only silence came to greet me. I guess Uncle Derek wasn't home yet. Shrugging, I went up to my room. Noticing a bare spot on top of my bookshelf,I decided to fill the empty space with my new clock. As I set the clock down, I noticed that the watch catalog that I had meant to show Mom and Dad wasn't there anymore... I stepped back from the shelf and gazed at the clock fondly. It looked pretty old. It might even be an antique. It looked pretty pricey, that was for sure. Maybe I should give Ashley and Emily a thank-you gift.
Clocks... More clocks... Wasn't Dad supposed to tell me something today, on my birthday?
Sox came through my open bedroom door, meowing loudly to announce his presence.
"Hey, Sox," I picked him up and scratched between his ears. As I took a closer look at him, I noticed something. There was a scrap of paper tucked into his collar. Maybe it was attached to that pen this morning. I unfastened the paper from Sox's collar and read the note as I placed him down on the bed.
"The Hollow Pen has been handed down through many generations of the Kairos family," it said. The Hollow Pen? Was that the pen from this morning? "The pen will glow when certain conditions have been fulfilled. Then you can open a Hole in time," it continued. Why was 'hole' capitalized? I shrugged it off and continued reading, "You'll learn the rest at the school's garbage dump. Be there 7 hours before on May 5th." What? '7 hours before'? I was so lost... There wasn't even any signature, I didn't know who the letter was from.
Shrugging, I folded the note and stuffed it into my pocket. It seemed vaguely important, so I didn't want just throw it out. I wanted to investigate. On my way downstairs, I heard some noises coming from the kitchen. Walking in, I found that my Uncle had gotten home. He was sitting at the kitchen table reading a newspaper (again).
"Oh, Uncle Derek," I said awkwardly. "Um, you're back..."
"Yeah, so?" He said without looking up from his paper. "What's it to you?" There's the Uncle Derek I knew.
"N-nothing..." I shrugged. He sure wasn't the easiest guy to talk to...
"Where you headed off to, anyway?" He asked.
"You were nearly out the door," he said, nodding towards my hand, which happened to be resting on the doorknob to the back door. "Just what time do you think it is, pal?"
"Uh... well..." I stuttered, "I just wanted to get some fresh air. I've been studying all this time..." A plausible enough excuse, right? It wasn't like I could tell him I was headed to school to find out about the letter, after all.
My uncle narrowed his eyes and just stared at me, as if to make sure I was telling he truth. Was he onto me?
"...Make sure you lock up," he finally said, putting down his newspaper. "I'm turning in."
"O-of course," I nodded. He actually believed it!
As soon as he was upstairs, I bolted out the door.
"Well," I said as I arrived at the empty dumpster in the middle of the dark, "I'm here..." Nothing exciting seemed to be happening... Hey, wait a minute...
As I stared at the dumpster, I realized something. That's right-I saw this place in that flashback. This must be the place that was mentioned in that letter. So something must have happened here '7 hours before'. It was around 10 at the moment, which meant around 3 earlier today...
I recalled the image back to my mind. Sox's letter mentioned the time and place... So the image must be of the dump at around 3 today! I used the scene's slightly fading sunlight to confirm my guessed time.
As soon as I pieced together the flashback, I felt this weird tingling sensation in my chest. When I looked down, I found that it was coming from my breast pocket-the Hollow Pen was glowing. So that meant...
I took the pen from my jacket pocket and held it in my hands, and the tingling spread to there.
"Now I..." I asked myself out loud, "I use this to open... a 'Hole'?" What on earth was I even talking about? Just how was I supposed do that?
... Just draw a circle here, or something? I mentally shrugged. Might as well try it...
I drew a circle in the air with the pen, just as a leaf was falling from a nearby tree, and that's when the most amazing thing happened.
As soon as I drew the circle, time stood still. Everything around me stopped, including the falling leaf. It just stopped in mid-air. But the leaf wasn't the only remarkable thing.
Right in front of me, was a giant, gaping, hole. It looked exactly like the one from my dream, the same, sci-fi black hole that I had seen before.
However, things were slightly different this time. After a moment, the darkness on the other side of the hole began to morph into a different image.
What was inside the hole displayed the dumpster, but the sun was out on the other side of the hole. Then... was this hole showing the dumpster... at 7 hours before? Recalling the image back to my mind, I confirmed that it was.
Whoa. It was like looking through a window to another time. I just stared at what was in the hole for a while.
On the other side of the hole, the sun was still out, and a couple of students were walking nearby, but they were frozen in place. There was still trash inside the dumpster, but that wasn't the only thing inside it. Among the many bags of garbage, there was a small mahogany box with a brass buckle. What was that doing there? It certainly didn't look like it was meant to be thrown out.
I reached through the Hole to pick it up, only to have it nearly swallow my arm. It sure was deep... As I pulled my arm back through, I noticed that there was a letter attached to the box.
Another letter... I frowned. Let's see what this one says... I removed it from the envelope, unfolded it, and began reading.
"Dear Ethan," it read. "Beyond the Hole is a Moment from the past. The Holes you open must be closed, or time won't start up again. The holder of the Pen must have the Time to use it. Once you've gotten the hang of the Pen, come and rescue us. This box is for you, in memory of the first Hole you ever opened. Happy Birthday, Ethan." My eyes wandered to the bottom of the paper, where, scrawled in that familiar chicken scratch, the letter read, "Sincerely, Dad".
...Dad? I hastily opened the box and stared, shocked, at what was inside. I gasped as I opened the lid, and gaped at what was inside, feeling tears start to well up at the corners of my eyes. Inside the box, was a watch, the exact one that I'd asked for yesterday...
So that yesterday wasn't a dream after all! Mom and Dad really did live! I rubbed my eyes, trying to rid myself of the tears slowly forming.
Taking a deep breath, I started to leave before I realized that I still needed to close the Hole. I tapped the Hole with the pen, and I felt the same rushing feeling and saw the same blinding light again. More images flashed before my eyes.
The first was of the dumpster again, and the other was of two students.
Before I knew it, the images were gone, and time had started back up again. I found myself back at the empty dumpster at 10 at night, watch and letter in hand.
...So even though I'd closed the hole, what I'd pulled through remained. I wonder if that changed anything in the past, or the future...
I sneezed just as the falling leaf finally fluttered to the ground. I should head home, I thought as I wiped my nose. I'd catch a cold if I stayed here. I placed the letter Hollow Pen back in my pocket, and put the watch on my wrist. Besides, I needed to think and try to process all of this.
"Hiya, Sox," I said to him as I sat down on my bed. He stretched and sat up to look at me with his giant green eyes. "Do you remember when I tried making you take a bath?" I scratched him between his ears. "You gave me a nasty scratch. Even Mom was fed up with you." Sox only blinked in response.
"I remember..." I got up from the bed. "After all, it was only yesterday." Sox laid back down and flicked his tail back and forth, watching me pace the floor. "But what happened to the part that comes after yesterday?" I asked myself. "It's got to be somewhere..."
I closed my eyes and laid back against the wall. "The rest of it all... A world with me, Mom, and Dad in it, living together..." I snapped my eyes open. "It WASN'T a dream! I know it wasn't!" I shouted, startling Sox and caused him to jump, almost making me chuckle.
I took the Hollow Pen out of my pocket and just stared at it for a while. "I've got to rescue Mom and Dad," I muttered to myself as I turned it over in my fingers. "With this crazy pen of theirs..."